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Water supply reserves may be exhausted this summer

Andy Gebhardt is the customer services manager for Truckee Meadows Water Authority.

Andy Gebhardt is the customer services manager for Truckee Meadows Water Authority.

Photo/Sage Leehey

For more about the water supply forecast, visit http://tinyurl.com/ky9xvc9.

For the first time in 20 years, we’ll be tapping into our water supply reserves this summer.

Truckee Meadows Water Authority says that the upstream drought reserves will be needed around the end of July or beginning of August. At that time, the Truckee River will be extremely low, too low for the flow standards set by the federal government to supply the area.

“We have water that we’ve stored in Donner and Independence reservoirs, and it’s kind of like your savings account,” said TMWA manager of customer services Andy Gebhardt. “We’ve just stored it up there waiting for, well, the opposite of a rainy day, a dry day.”

The water flow standards for the Truckee River were set back in 1944 with the Orr Ditch Decree, and they require a certain amount of water flow in the area.

“As long as water is flowing out of Boca and out of Tahoe, they’re meeting the demands,” Gebhardt said. “About the end of July, beginning of August, that water’s not going to flow anymore, and it’ll be drastic. People will be playing in the river on one day, and the next day they’re going to be saying, ’Where did all the water go?’ It’s going to be really low. At that point in time, in order to meet the community’s needs, we’re going to release some water.”

But like a savings account, TMWA doesn’t want to release more than absolutely necessary, so they will be asking for a 10 percent outdoor water usage reduction from the public. Currently, TMWA disallows watering from noon to 6 p.m., but when they begin using the reserves, they will extend that time period two hours. It will be from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“You never know what next winter is going to bring, so we want to make sure that if we don’t have to use it, we’re not going to,” Gebhardt said. “That’s why we’re calling on people to voluntarily take a look at their irrigation system, take a look at your sprinklers, get on leaks as soon as you can, make sure everything is operating properly. A 10 percent reduction is pretty easy. It can be as simple as taking a look at your sprinkler clock, and your cycles are probably on 10-minute cycles, take it to nine minutes.”

TMWA is asking for reduction in outdoor water usage and not indoor water usage because indoor water usage reductions won’t have the same effect. The indoor use is already relatively low, but as a community, we use four times the water in the summer than in the winter, and that’s mainly for outdoor use, like watering the lawn.

Gebhardt said they will not be asking for the public to reduce their usage until just before TMWA taps into the reserves because reducing water at that time will help TMWA be able to store more water in the reserves for the future. Conserving water is always a good idea for the community, but it just won’t have the same effect until TMWA has tapped into the reserves.

The river will be very low come the end of July and beginning of August, though, so Gebhardt said the public should be prepared for that.

“And if you’re planning on floating the river, I would float it before the end of July,” Gebhardt said. “You’re going to be dragging rock a bit at the end of July and in August.”